Monday, March 17, 2008

Media Gets Iowa Wrong

Media Gets Iowa Wrong -- Again

The actual count of Iowa's elected Democratic national delegates is Obama zero, Clinton zero, Edwards zero. Iowa won't elect any national convention delegates for six weeks. But you wouldn't know it from the national press coverage of Saturday's county conventions. Most reports at least implied that the national convention delegates have already been chosen, and that Edwards national delegates were switching their support to Obama.

Here's what actually happened Saturday. The county convention delegates elected on caucus night met and elected delegates to the congressional district and state conventions (the same pool of people go to both). Most of the national delegates are elected at the April 26 congressional district conventions; the rest are elected at the state convention June 14. So Saturday Democrats didn't choose the national delegates: they chose the people who will choose the national delegates, and who gets the national delegates will depends on who shows up and how they do or don't switch.

Not an easy thing to squeeze into a sentence or two. An Iowan, of course, nails it; here's Thomas Beaumont's Des Moines Register lede:
Barack Obama put himself in position on Saturday to capture a larger share of Iowa's national convention delegates than he won on caucus night in January...

Of the national media, Ben Smith at The Politico has the best combination of accuracy and snazz in a concise lede:
A pretty stunning gain out of Iowa for Obama, where an Iowa Democratic official confirmed to me just now that the county convention results will translate into a 25-14-6 edge for Obama over Clinton and Edwards.

June Kronholz at the Wall Street Journal has a very accurate and complete lede:
At county conventions over the weekend, (Edwards) won 373 delegates to the Congressional District and state conventions where Iowans will select the 45 pledged delegates to send to the national convention in Denver.

Sen. Barack Obama won 52% of the 2,500 delegates who will go on to the next two tiers in the national delegate-selection process and Sen. Hillary Clinton won 32%. The 2,500 were winnowed from nearly 14,000 delegates who were selected to attend this weekend’s conventions at Iowa’s Jan. 3 first-in-the nation caucuses.

Simple disclaimer words like "estimated" or "projected" would salvage most of the stories. Check this from Huffington Post:
Democrat Barack Obama expanded his fragile lead in delegates over rival Hillary Rodham Clinton on Saturday, picking up nine delegates as Iowa activists took the next step in picking delegates to the national convention.

More than half the 14 delegates allocated to John Edwards on the basis of caucus night projections switched Saturday to Obama.

Democratic Party projections said the results mean Obama increased by nine the number of delegates he collects from the state, getting a total of 25 compared with 14 for Clinton and six for Edwards.

Not 100 percent, but headed in the right direction.

MSNBC delegate guru Chuck Todd walks through the district by district math better than anyone, but still doesn't make it entirely clear that the national delegates haven't been chosen yet:
So the trashing of the caucus process was not good for Clinton's campaign, which got killed at the Iowa county convention re-caucus. Obama picked up an additional nine delegates, mostly from Edwards’ January 3 haul. The overall delegate take for each candidate: 25 for Obama (that's up from 16 ); 14 for Clinton (that's down one from her 15); and six hung with Edwards (down from 14).

Teddy Davis of ABC starts to get it right:
Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., saw his delegate lead over Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., grow by 10 on Saturday when Iowa Democrats took the second step in picking national convention delegates.

But then he drops the ball.
As a result of Saturday's county conventions, Obama gained nine delegates, Clinton lost one, and Edwards lost eight delegates.

How about "Obama stands to gain nine delegates," not "gained" none delegates? Two more words, a lot more accuracy.

Peter Slevin at the Washington Post anthropmorphizes the "national delegates" a bit, making the unfilled potential seats into people taking actions:
Sen. Barack Obama picked up nine more pledged delegates in Iowa, state Democratic officials said late Saturday night, as thousands took part in county conventions.

All but one of the delegates had been among the 14 won Jan. 3 by former senator John Edwards, who has since dropped out of the Democratic presidential race. Election-night projections showed Obama getting 16 delegates and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton 15.

With the other six standing firm for Edwards at the county conventions, Obama's camp claimed 25 delegates from Iowa to 14 for Clinton.

Well, not quite. The six Edwards national delegates can't "stand firm" -- because they haven't been chosen yet.

But Forbes gets it worst:
During a week without a national primary or caucus, Barack Obama managed to add to his delegate lead in the race for the Democratic nomination. Over the past weekend, nine of the fourteen Iowa delegates pledged to John Edwards threw their support to Barack Obama.

The brief article fails to even mention county conventions.

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